A good samaritan, who took an 80-year-old friend to South West Acute Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department, has spoken about their 14 hour wait to be admitted saying that she has “never seen anything like it”.

Tina Dundas, who brought an elderly friend to the emergency department last week told the Impartial Reporter that the system is simply not working.

“My friend had heart failure and kidney failure. He ended up staying in hospital for five or six days so he definitely needed to be admitted but we spent all day and all evening waiting, and it was after midnight before he got a bed. We were there from 10 in the morning,” she said.

Mrs. Dundas heaped praise on the “overworked staff” but questioned if the hospital was being used to its full capacity: “I felt so sorry for the staff, who never stopped. But there is simply not enough nurses or doctors and there is obviously not enough of the hospital being used.

“There needs to be more beds because at the moment the demand cannot be coped with.”

Mrs. Dundas told us her story in the same week it emerged that waiting times at South West Acute Hospital Emergency Department rose by over 12 per cent in December 2019 in comparison to the same period in December 2018.

The Department of Health targets 95 per cent of patients being seen and discharged home, or admitted to hospital, within a four-hour period.

But at SWAH Emergency Department that figure was 51.1 per cent in December 2019. This is a fall from 63.3 per cent in December 2018.

Of the 10 emergency departments in Northern Ireland, three performed worse than SWAH with Altnagelvin, also in the Western Trust area, seeing a drop of over 20 per cent to 46.4 per cent.

Mrs. Dundas revealed that the ED was so busy at SWAH during her time there that another room was needed to keep waiting patients.

“We were moved to another room and there must have been about 12 people in there. A nurse brought in a jug of water and some paper cups. I went around giving people drinks and sips of water.

“There was one poor man who couldn’t hardly lift his head sitting in a chair. People just kept coming and coming. My friend was just so exhausted and it was so obvious that he needed to be admitted but there was simply not the beds available,” she explained.

Mrs. Dundas queried the way hospital admissions were made and said that to her it is clear that the system is not functioning as it should: “It was the GP who told my friend to go to the emergency department.

“Obviously it wasn’t possible to admit my friend in the normal way, maybe because there was no beds, so he was sent through ED, but that is not the answer to anything. It really was unbelievable and the staff are just rushed off their feet.”

Health Minister Robin Swan has said that the the recent figures are simply “not good enough”, while he paid tribute to those who are working on the front line: “These figures are simply not good enough.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve better. I have written to the chief executives of each of the Trusts, requesting detailed assessments of the situation.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to the staff who continue to work through these pressures, however, we need to fix things for their sake as well as for patients.

“I fully recognise that there are no quick or easy solutions. As with other parts of the health service, sustained investment is required alongside reforms to the way services are delivered,” Minister Swann said.